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#1467712 --- 03/19/15 06:20 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
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Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
Monsanto settles 7 lawsuits after 2013 GMO-wheat scare

March 19, 2015

Excerpts

Without any admission of liability the company will pay some $350,000 in donations to agricultural schools.

In November, Monsanto has already agreed to settle about $2.4 million worth of damages in other lawsuits related to the Oregon scandal. The history of settlements seems like a drop in the ocean for a company that made $2.74 billion last year that with sales of $15.86 billion.

http://rt.com/usa/242085-monsanto-gmo-case-settlement/

---------------

Enjoy a refreshing take on the news, the truth. Chanel 93.4.

Abby Martin's "Breaking the Set," Thom Hartman's "The Big Picture," and Erin Aide's "Boom Bust."
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#1467713 --- 03/19/15 06:47 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
cwjga Offline
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Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 12529
Loc: NY
http://grist.org/food/genetically-modified-seed-research-whats-locked-and-what-isnt/

Genetically modified seed research: What’s locked and what isn’t

By Nathanael Johnson on 5 Aug 2013 191 comments
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In the next few posts, I’m going to look at intellectual property rights in biotechnology and corporate influence over science. There are huge, philosophical issues to grapple with here, to wit: Should we even allow ownership of organisms? When it turns out that there are Monsanto crops growing in an organic farmer’s field (accidentally?), who is at fault? What’s the effect of corporations funding university research and patenting the discoveries of public scientists? As I’ve been doing, I’m going to focus on one sliver at a time, building toward bigger answers post by post.

You may have heard that companies place draconian licensing agreements on their genetically engineered seeds. In the same way that using software presumes you accept a raft of terms and conditions, using GM seeds generally means that you’re bound by a complex contract [PDF]. Scientists have said that these patent restrictions keep them from accurately testing GE seeds. However, the biotech companies claim that they cooperate with independent scientists and support objective research. So where’s the truth here?

In 2009, 26 scientists drafted an anonymous letter to the Enivironmental Protection Agency complaining that the legalese that came with each sack of GM grain was making it impossible for them to do their jobs. “No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions,” they wrote.

One of the anonymous 26 was Elson Shields, a corn-insect scientist at Cornell University.

“You had to have written permission from the companies for any science involving their seed, even if it was commercially available,” he said. Companies sometimes revoked this permission [PDF] in the middle of an experiment, undoing months of work. “Well, a research group decided to get boisterous about it and wrote that letter to the EPA,” Shields said.

This was not a group of starry-eyed environmentalists. “These were plant entomologists, mostly from Midwestern land-grant universities. We’re all generally pro-GMO,” Shields said. “It’s just that each event [of genetic insertion] needs to be looked at and evaluated on a scientific basis.”

“We readily admit that there were some concerns early on,” said Andy LaVigne when I called to ask him about this. LaVigne is president of the American Seed Trade Association, the organization that represents the crop biotech firms. But LaVigne says that he was caught somewhat off guard when Shields and the other scientists complained. “Well, we said, let’s get everyone around a table.”

That table was in a conference room at Iowa State University. The university scientists were shoulder-to-shoulder with the industry representatives for the first time.

“I think probably the biggest thing that came out of it is that we were sort of two communities talking past each other,” LaVigne said. “There were really a-ha moments on both sides. It evolved over the next six months and then the principles were adopted.”

Those principles made explicit an industry commitment to allow independent scientists to do any sort of research they wanted with commercially available seeds, as long as they weren’t trying to pirate the technology, and as long as they don’t sell or release the seeds into the wild afterward. If you read these principles [PDF], it sounds like the problem’s solved.

So I asked Shields: How’s that working out?

“If you are at a major agricultural school that’s negotiated an agreement with the companies, it’s working fine,” he said.

Any scientist working at those institutions with agreements is now free to experiment. The catch is that the companies require the universities to sign a further legal agreement, showing that they understand they can’t let researchers pirate the seeds or plant them after the experiment is over.

“Each company has to decide how many universities to make those agreements with,” Shields said. “What justification they have and why they pick one over the other, that’s above my pay grade. It may be that they know there’s a scientist whose work they don’t like, so they don’t choose that university.”

I went back to LaVigne and asked, why not just let all universities do this? He explained that it took a lot of time and lawyerly effort to draft agreements with every university, and some of the smaller companies had made the determination that they just didn’t have the lawyers on staff to contact them all.

But why bring in the lawyers in the first place? Why not just lay out the guidelines and go after anyone who violates them? That was just the decision the companies made, LaVigne said.

Want to guess where Monsanto stands in this? Monsanto has a blanket agreement allowing research at all universities in the United States. And actually, when Shields et al. made their complaint, Monsanto claimed it already had many of these agreements in place allowing independent research.

“Was that true?” I asked Shields. “Could you have been doing research on Monsanto grain?”

“Yes,” he said. “We just didn’t know it. I’m a scientist, I don’t speak legalese. Monsanto gets a lot of pain in the public press, but they are the company that interacts the best with public scientists — they have always been on the forefront of pushing public research forward.”

There was one problem still, he said: Scientists can’t work with seeds before they come on the market. That hampers his ability to make recommendations about which seeds work best under different conditions, or to test for unwanted effects. Remember the study [PDF] that showed that Monarch butterflies might die if they ate too much insect-resistant GE corn pollen? That was technically an illegal study, he said.

Ultimately, though, Shields said, everything I was asking about was a bit of a sideshow. Getting permission to do research is all well and good, but it’s meaningless unless you also are able to get money to do research.

“In my 30 years as a public scientist, there’s been a dramatic erosion of public funding. And that makes science more dependent on private funding. If I want to study something, I have to figure out who I can BS into giving me enough money. And these days everyone wants to invest in a sure thing. The preliminary stuff, the interesting stuff, competitive funding will never pay for it.”

Shields had told me when we started talking that he believed agriculture was going to have to make some spectacular innovations to prevent civilization from “the crash, burn, and starve scenario.” Genetic modification, he said, almost certainly will be a part of that. But, he said, you don’t necessarily get spectacular innovation by following the carrot (and the profits) in front of your nose:

“I think you need to try a lot of crazy ideas, you’re going to get a lot of failure, but you also might just get something big. The problem is it’s getting harder and harder to do that kind of work. Federal, state, institutional funding, it’s all drying up. That scenario is really the bigger risk than anything we’ve talked about.”

I’ll look further down this road soon. Next up, though, because I’ll be on vacation, I’m working on a guide to books about GM food.

More in this series:

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#1467721 --- 03/20/15 12:19 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
Former GMO Engineer Drops Biotech and Goes Organic

Thierry Vrain

"If you are a scientist and discover things that are of concern, then you are accused of doing “pseudoscience” and often viciously attacked by the industry and academics on the payroll."

"Those warnings were ignored."

"It troubles me that money and the bottom line are at the root of the use of the technology."

"Rats and mice are the canary in the mine, and we should be paying attention to what happens to them."

"There are a lot of people on the payroll and a lot of grant money flowing from biotech companies to academia."

"Even if genetic engineering was perfectly safe, I still question it because of genetic pollution. Organic crops and foods are becoming contaminated."

Regarding the gmo apple: "There’s no research or toxicity tests to show that it’s not toxic."

http://organicconnectmag.com/project/for...paign=fbmention
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#1467722 --- 03/20/15 12:25 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
Ontario County CSA Fair includes movie

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County is hosting a CSA (community-supported agriculture) Fair and Documentary Film from 1 to 4:30 p.m. March 21 at 480 N. Main St., Canandaigua.

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/stor...movie/24510211/
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#1467723 --- 03/20/15 12:35 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
Monsanto and DuPont Lose Initial Appeals over Mexico GM Maize Ban

Mar 20 2015

The legal battles over the existing ban on the planting of GM maize in Mexico continue to unfold with a string of four important court victories by the Acción Colectiva del Maíz.

http://sustainablepulse.com/2015/03/20/m...n/#.VQwD440tH3g
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#1467818 --- 03/21/15 05:06 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
FDA News Release For Immediate Release March 20, 2015

FDA concludes Arctic Apples and Innate Potatoes are safe for consumption

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration completed its evaluation for two varieties of apples genetically engineered by...

... the FDA encourages them to participate in a voluntary consultation process...

The consultation process includes a review of information provided by a company...

The FDA has no additional food safety questions at this time concerning food from these plant varieties. It is a company’s continuing responsibility to ensure that food it markets is safe and otherwise in compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements. In certain circumstances, characteristics of these varieties of apples and potatoes that differ from their conventional counterparts may require disclosure to the consumer.

http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm439121.htm
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#1467819 --- 03/21/15 05:18 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
Jeffrey M. Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology and author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette talks with John (Total Health Magazine) about the war on GMOs.

3 minutes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOCjtZhTKho
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#1467822 --- 03/21/15 06:28 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
GMO Yeast in your wine?

Not if it is Non GMO Project Verified.

Natural Merchants is proud to announce that 29 of their imported organic wines have been Non-GMO Project Verified.

http://www.nongmoproject.org/2014/03/12/...ed-from-europe/

https://www.facebook.com/NaturalMerchants
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#1467825 --- 03/21/15 07:46 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
Timbo Offline
Silver Member

Registered: 07/18/12
Posts: 14706
Loc: CNY
Originally Posted By: MissingArty
"If you are a scientist and discover things that are of concern, then you are accused of doing “pseudoscience” and often viciously attacked by the industry and academics on the payroll."

Or, if you're a credible scientist who recognizes more gross examples of the seemingly endless barrage of commonly promoted lousy science theories, you may also choose to appropriately apply the label of “pseudoscience”.

FORMER genetic engineer Thierry Vrain's (Ph.D) "scientific" papers and reports are so full of inaccuracies, inconsistencies, false assumptions, faulty logic and uniformly discredited theories, that you can drive a truck through them.

http://www.langleytimes.com/opinion/letters/233667121.html
http://www.kelownacapnews.com/opinion/letters/233650961.html?mobile=true
http://randomrationality.com/2013/07/05/creationism-anti-gmo/
http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/0...ccine-movement/
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collid...e/#.VQ27MFwn8qY
http://geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/1...ect-in-science/
http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/neil-degrasse-tyson-annihilates-anti-gmo-argument

All the Gish Gallop (see bluezone*) in the world, doesn't change that fact.

The biggest example of such pseudoscience, is the incessant and universal claim that forced transgenics do not occur naturally. Not only does it do so, it happens almost as often as not. Emotional reactionism and ignorance of the scientific process is at the core of the vast majority of anti-GMO sentiment. Bottom line... peer reviewed science simply does NOT support such arguments.

And before you fly off half-cocked again, mistakenly or intentionally accusing me of being any kind of friend of Monsanto, etc., think again, I'm FAR from it. I believe that food labels should be labelled for GMOs so that people can make whatever informed or un-informed choices that they choose to.

My only allegiance is to the facts and to a process of intensely rigorous peer-reviewed scientific scrutiny.
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#1467868 --- 03/22/15 04:51 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
cwjga Offline
Silver Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 12529
Loc: NY
Originally Posted By: MissingArty
Ontario County CSA Fair includes movie

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County is hosting a CSA (community-supported agriculture) Fair and Documentary Film from 1 to 4:30 p.m. March 21 at 480 N. Main St., Canandaigua.

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/stor...movie/24510211/


Good post. http://www.porterfarms.org/ a link to great CSA owned by my close friend.


Edited by cwjga (03/22/15 04:59 PM)

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#1467908 --- 03/23/15 05:07 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
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#1467910 --- 03/23/15 05:44 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
The First Gmo Apple Approved by the USDA, Trouble to the Core (page 26)

"But this apple isn't about feeding the world. It's about selling you a cosmetically enhanced product that looks fresh when it might, in fact, be on the verge of rotting."

http://www.sopdigitaledition.com/commonground/#/26/
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#1467911 --- 03/23/15 05:47 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
The Common Ground interview: Jeffrey Smith's Anti-GMO Crusade

http://www.sopdigitaledition.com/commonground/#/50/
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#1467912 --- 03/23/15 06:59 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
It’s Official, McDonald’s and Monsanto Are Both ‘Losing Money Fast’ Public awakens to what's really in their food

by Anthony Gucciardi Posted on February 22, 2015

In a series of headlines that would pass as virtually unbelievable several years ago, mainstream economists are sounding the alarm over the financial decline of both fast food giant McDonald’s and biotech juggernaut Monsanto.

CNN asks, ‘Is McDonald’s doomed?’ Business Insider declares that ‘McDonald’s Is Losing America’

Read more: http://naturalsociety.com/official-mcdonalds-monsanto-losing-money-fast/#ixzz3VESSbIWK
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#1467913 --- 03/23/15 07:11 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
It's gotten so bad, you have to laugh so that you don't cry! Stewart calls out the food industry....again!

http://www.takepart.com/video/2015/03/18...-share-facebook
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#1467931 --- 03/24/15 12:31 AM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
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Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
Published on Feb 22, 2015

Watch as these kids show what makes organic farming the choice for the future in a surprising twist on a classic children’s song. www.NewMacDonald.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypF15z3euwM
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#1467934 --- 03/24/15 03:06 AM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
MissingArty Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 2349
Loc: Waterloo, NY
Press Release just put out by the NY GMO Labeling Coalition. Please share! Links at bottom. Please sign the petition to NY legislators.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 23, 2015

New Study: Probable Cancer-Causing Weed-Killer Used on GMO Crops

On Heels of Groundbreaking Report from the World Health Organization, Environmental & Consumer Rights Experts Urge NYS Legislature to Stand Up to Coca-Cola and Monsanto and Pass GMO Labeling Bill

Local Farmers Question Farm Bureau’s Die-hard Support of a Mode of Agriculture That Puts Farmers and Other Agricultural Workers at Increased Risk of Certain Cancers

Albany- As the New York State legislature considers an important consumer rights bill (A.617 Rosenthal / S.485 LaValle) that would inform New York residents whether food products contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, the World Health Organization delivered an important decision classifying the herbicide used on GMO crops as a probable cancer-causing carcinogen. The probable carcinogenic herbicide--glyphosate--is popular specifically because of GMO crops' inbred resistance to it.

“It's appalling to discover that an herbicide that GMO crops are specifically engineered to tolerate is actually a probable carcinogen," said Michael Hansen, PHD Senior Scientist at Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports. "Monsanto and other biotech companies have created crops that use glyphosate at vastly increased levels. New York residents deserve to know whether the food they buy for their families--the food they put in their bodies--has been genetically engineered, given that almost all GE crops are sprayed with this herbicide."

The New York State Assembly's Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection approved A.617--a bill which would require the labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms--on March 3rd. The legislation is now before the Assembly's Codes Committee.

Organic farmers used the news today to also urge the New York State Farm Bureau to change course and support GMO labeling.

“The Farm Bureau’s die-hard support for a probable cancer-causing weed killer used on GMO crops is baffling and wrong,” said Elizabeth Henderson, of Peacework Farm in Newark, New York. “It puts the health and safety of farmers and other agricultural workers at risk. The Farm Bureau should stop taking its cues from Monsanto and start supporting local farmers. They can start by signing on to GMO labeling legislation.”

Over 90 percent of consumers want genetically engineered food labeled, according to polls by Consumer Reports and The New York Times. Public support for GMO labeling crosses partisan boundaries; 71 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans are in favor of labeling, according to a December 2014 Associated Press-GfK poll.

The legislation has broad statewide support as well, including Consumers Union, Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club, NYPIRG, NRDC, GMO Free NY, and dozens of New York State farmers. A full list of supporters is available here:
http://gmofreeny.net/nygelabelingcampaign.html

The study determining the probable carcinogenic nature of herbicides used on GMOs is available online:

http://www.thelancet.com/…/lanonc/PIIS1470-2045%2815%297013…

http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanonc/PIIS1470-2045(15)70134-8.pdf
_________________________
Arty turns 10 this summer.

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#1467940 --- 03/24/15 12:01 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
cwjga Offline
Silver Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 12529
Loc: NY
Originally Posted By: MissingArty
Press Release just put out by the NY GMO Labeling Coalition. Please share! Links at bottom. Please sign the petition to NY legislators.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 23, 2015

New Study: Probable Cancer-Causing Weed-Killer Used on GMO Crops

On Heels of Groundbreaking Report from the World Health Organization, Environmental & Consumer Rights Experts Urge NYS Legislature to Stand Up to Coca-Cola and Monsanto and Pass GMO Labeling Bill

Local Farmers Question Farm Bureau’s Die-hard Support of a Mode of Agriculture That Puts Farmers and Other Agricultural Workers at Increased Risk of Certain Cancers

Albany- As the New York State legislature considers an important consumer rights bill (A.617 Rosenthal / S.485 LaValle) that would inform New York residents whether food products contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, the World Health Organization delivered an important decision classifying the herbicide used on GMO crops as a probable cancer-causing carcinogen. The probable carcinogenic herbicide--glyphosate--is popular specifically because of GMO crops' inbred resistance to it.

“It's appalling to discover that an herbicide that GMO crops are specifically engineered to tolerate is actually a probable carcinogen," said Michael Hansen, PHD Senior Scientist at Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports. "Monsanto and other biotech companies have created crops that use glyphosate at vastly increased levels. New York residents deserve to know whether the food they buy for their families--the food they put in their bodies--has been genetically engineered, given that almost all GE crops are sprayed with this herbicide."

The New York State Assembly's Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection approved A.617--a bill which would require the labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms--on March 3rd. The legislation is now before the Assembly's Codes Committee.

Organic farmers used the news today to also urge the New York State Farm Bureau to change course and support GMO labeling.

“The Farm Bureau’s die-hard support for a probable cancer-causing weed killer used on GMO crops is baffling and wrong,” said Elizabeth Henderson, of Peacework Farm in Newark, New York. “It puts the health and safety of farmers and other agricultural workers at risk. The Farm Bureau should stop taking its cues from Monsanto and start supporting local farmers. They can start by signing on to GMO labeling legislation.”

Over 90 percent of consumers want genetically engineered food labeled, according to polls by Consumer Reports and The New York Times. Public support for GMO labeling crosses partisan boundaries; 71 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans are in favor of labeling, according to a December 2014 Associated Press-GfK poll.

The legislation has broad statewide support as well, including Consumers Union, Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club, NYPIRG, NRDC, GMO Free NY, and dozens of New York State farmers. A full list of supporters is available here:
http://gmofreeny.net/nygelabelingcampaign.html

The study determining the probable carcinogenic nature of herbicides used on GMOs is available online:

http://www.thelancet.com/…/lanonc/PIIS1470-2045%2815%297013…

http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanonc/PIIS1470-2045(15)70134-8.pdf


Can't wait until producers are mandated to label there crops as non-GMO.

Everyone has the right to know.

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#1467950 --- 03/24/15 02:58 PM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: cwjga]
cwjga Offline
Silver Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 12529
Loc: NY

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#1468004 --- 03/25/15 11:46 AM Re: State of the Science of the Health Risks of GMO Food [Re: MissingArty]
cwjga Offline
Silver Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 12529
Loc: NY
http://blog.ted.com/why-genetic-engineer...aks-at-ted2015/


How genetic engineering can fight disease, reduce insecticide use and enhance food security: Pamela Ronald speaks at TED2015

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May March 18, 2015 at 11:01 am EDT
Pamela Ronald speaks at TED2015 - Truth and Dare, Session 6. Photo: Bret Hartman/TED
Pamela Ronald is a plant scientist, married to an organic farmer. Her talk shows how their goals are the same: to grow good food. Photo: Bret Hartman/TED
Pamela Ronald is here to talk about her work as a plant geneticist, about her work “studying genes that make plants resistant to disease and tolerant of stress.”

But first, she’d like to introduce us to her husband. “This is Raoul. He’s an organic farmer,” she says. “People say, ‘Really? An organic farmer and a plant geneticist? Can you agree on anything?’ Well, we can. Because we both have the same goal: we want to help nourish the growing population without further destroying the environment.”

Genetic improvement of plants isn’t new, she says. Ancient corn had a case so hard that it couldn’t be chewed; the ancient banana was full of large seeds; ancient brussels sprouts weren’t actually individual objects. “To create these crops, breeders used many kinds of genetic techniques,” says Ronald. “Today breeders have even more the options choose from. Some of them are extraordinarily precise.”

She moves on to her own work on rice, “the staple food for more than half the world’s population.” Every year, 40% of the rice harvest is lost to pests and disease. “Farmers rely on varieties that carry genes for resistance.”

When Ronald started her work, no one knew exactly what those genes were. Her lab helped isolated a gene called “XA21&#8243; that makes rice resistant to bacterial infection, and engineered it into plants. After the publication of this work, Ronald was approached by a colleague, Dave Mackill, who was working on how to make rice more resilient in the face of flooding.

“Although rice grows well in standing water, most varieties will die if they’re submerged for more than three days. Flooding increasingly problematic as climate changes,” says Ronald. “[Mackill] said, ’70 million rice farmers are having trouble growing rice because their fields are flooded. They’re living on less than $2 a day.”

The two launched a decade-long quest, with graduate student Kenong Xu, to identify and isolate a gene that might help. Eventually, they succeeded with the discovery of the gene Sub1. In a greenhouse test, rice engineered with Sub1 survived 18 days of flooding, while the standard rice died. Ronald shows a time lapse of what happened when breeders at the International Rice Research Institute developed new varieties carrying this gene using precision breeding. Both the IRRI variety and the conventional variety grow well at first. But after 17 days of submergence, the conventional rice has withered while the Sub1 rice thrives. “And they produce three-fold more grain than the conventional variety,” says Ronald.

Last year, 3.5 million farmers grew Sub1 rice thanks to financial support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“A lot of people don’t mind genetic modification when it involves moving rice genes around,” says Ronald, “but when it comes to taking genes from viruses and bacteria and putting them into plants, people say ‘Yuck! Why would scientists do that?'”

Ronald’s answer: “Because sometimes it is the safest, cheapest and most effective technology to advance sustainable agriculture and enhance food security.”

She walks us through a few examples. In the 1950s, the papaya crop on the island of Oahu in Hawaii was threatened by a ringspot virus. “Many people thought the Hawaiian papaya was doomed,” says Ronald.

A local Hawaiian plant pathologist named Dennis Gonsalves had an idea. He spliced a snippet of the DNA of the virus into the papaya genome — and it worked. It made the papaya resistant to the virus. “His pioneering work is credited with rescuing the papaya industry,” says Ronald. “Twenty years later, no other method is as effective.” 80% of all Hawaiian papaya is now engineered in this way.

Next, she brings us to Bangladesh, where a caterpillar pest is ravaging the eggplant crop. “To control this pest, farmers spray insecticides 2 to 3 times a week, sometimes even twice a day,” says Ronald. Of course, this threatens their own health. “It’s estimated that 300,000 people die every year because of exposure and misuse of insecticides.”

Organic farmers like Ronald’s husband use a spray called Bt, which is highly specific to caterpillars while being safe for humans, birds and other animals — it’s less toxic than table salt, says Ronald. But this approach does not work for farmers in Bangladesh because it is expensive and hard to find. “In the genetic approach, scientists cut the gene for Bt out of the bacteria and insert it directly into the eggplant genome,” says Ronald. This was used last season and it helped farmers take insecticide use down to zero.

And one final example has to do with malnutrition. “In less developed countries, Vitamin A deficiency causes nearly 500,000 children to go blind every year. More than half die,” says Ronald.

To try to help, scientists created genetically engineered “golden rice,” that has B-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A. “Scientists predict that just one cup of golden rice per day will reduce blindness and the deaths of thousands of young children each year,” says Ronald. “But Golden Rice has been virulently opposed by activists who are against genetic modification.”

She points to a moment last year when activists stormed and destroyed a golden rice field trial. “When I heard about it, I wondered if the activists realized that they had destroyed much more than an important scientific research project — that they had destroyed medicines that children desperately need.”

Genetic engineering has been used commercially for 40 years in wines, cheeses and much more. And in that time, there hasn’t been a case of harm to human health or the environment, she points out. “Look, I’m not asking you to believe me. Science is not a belief system. My opinion does not matter. Let’s look at the evidence. After 20 years of careful study and rigorous peer review by thousands of independent scientists, every major scientific organization in the world has concluded that the process of genetic engineering is as safe or safer as older methods of genetic modification.”

She ends: “What scares me most about the loud arguments and misinformation about plant genetics is that the poorest people, the people who most need the technology, may be denied access because of the fears and prejudices of those who have enough to eat.”


Edited by cwjga (03/25/15 11:49 AM)

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